The Old Grey Wizard
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The Kindness of Strangers: 8. The Cleverest Creature
The Cleverest Creature
Coräc enjoyed puzzles immensely. But his wife Morigian was, he had to admit, even cleverer. He consulted her about the problem, and it was she who devised the plan.
The raven pair and their closest kin searched for what Morigian had stated was required: a scrap of human-woven fabric.
"It had best be a raven-wingspan wide," she said. "And try to find something square...and clean. But dirty will do," she added with a croak.
August was almost half over. The orchards of Isengard were laden—but with as yet unripe fruits. The berries of the fields and forests, however, were at their peak. Finally one day, Coräc found an old tunic lying tangled at the edge of a stream. He landed beside it and tugged. It was small; maybe it had been a child's garment. Perhaps the child had drowned in the stream. He searched the banks of the stream, unwilling to pass up a chance for sweet meat. He saw nothing. No matter. The tunic would do nicely.
Coräc and Morigian plucked blueberries and blackberries for hours. They could not resist the temptation to eat a few for every one they dropped into the fabric. Soon, they were so full that they had to rest. They flew together to the nearest tree and napped, leaning against one another in the dappled sunlight, listening to the buzzing bees.
When the ravens woke, the berries were gone. Undaunted, they began again. When the cast-off tunic seemed full, Coräc stepped around it and folded the corners inward. He gathered the points into his beak and tried to fly away. It was too heavy. Carefully, Morigian undid one corner and kicked and scraped half the berries into the grass.
"Try it now," she said.
This time, Coräc succeeded. It was hardly any heavier than the strip of stag-flesh had been. He could not call to his wife with his burden in his beak, so he nodded to her as he flew, and she joined him, croaking happily at their cleverness.
They soared up and up, catching the rising thermals that always swirled about the black Tower. Spiraling downward, Morigian searched the platform. There was no one there.
"Your grey fellow seems to be missing," she said.
Coräc fluttered to an awkward landing, releasing the fabric package onto the polished floor, spilling its contents. His wife landed lightly beside him. They looked about curiously.
The man's great silver sword was lying in the middle of the floor. Coräc had never seen it unsheathed before. It glittered in the sunlight, but was stained with blotches of black. Morigian hopped across the floor to where a long stick lay. She poked it.
"Is this the stick you mentioned?" she said.
"Yes, and here is his sword," Coräc answered, as he sniffed Orc blood on the blade. The greybeard's cloak and hat lay discarded near one pillar, and his boots were lying on their sides, empty of water.
The ravens strutted and hopped about on the high platform, nudging each object with their beaks. Finally Morigian flapped her wings and flew upward.
"There is nothing more to do here," she croaked. "You cannot help him now."
Coräc looked around one last time before he sprang into the air.
"He should have jumped off," the bird muttered as he flew away.
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